Fast, fu­ri­ous and right in front of you

Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios un­veils a new 3- D ‘ Su­per­charged’ ride based on the film.

Los Angeles Times - - CULTURE MONSTER - By Jevon Phillips

Tyrese Gib­son has been in two of Hol­ly­wood’s most lu­cra­tive film fran­chises — those would be the “Fast and Fu­ri­ous” and “Trans­form­ers” movies. And with the open­ing Wed­nes­day of Fast & Fu­ri­ous — Su­per­charged, the new­est at­trac­tion at Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios, Gib­son can say he’s been in movies that have be­come two block­buster thrill rides.

“What’s crazy is that the first theme park I’d ever been to was Uni­ver­sal,” says Gib­son, who is also a Gram­mynom­i­nated singer, song­writer, TV pro­ducer and for­mer fash­ion model. “I’ve got pic­tures of me when I was up there at 8 years old, so to be a part of the Trans­form­ers and the Fast and Fu­ri­ous rides just shows me that any­thing is pos­si­ble.”

It also means the ac­tor’s daugh­ter, Shayla, will have, as Gib­son says dur­ing a re­cent phone in­ter­view, “a spe­cial kind of brag­ging rights” at her school when Uni­ver­sal re­veals Fast & Fu­ri­ous — Su­per­charged, the new grand fi­nale of the Stu­dio Tour.

“What we have is this 600foot ride that you don’t even know is there. It’s a thrill ride on steroids,” says Chick Rus­sell, ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer for Uni­ver­sal Cre­ative. “Each tram will also give dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences for you to en­counter as you go through.”

The idea is to give tram riders a sense of be­ing right in the mid­dle of an ac­tion movie, which is why Gib­son and his fel­low fran­chise stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Ro­driguez, Dwayne John­son and Luke Evans all par­tic­i­pated in the mak­ing of the ride.

“Since we are in Hol­ly­wood,” says Rus­sell, “be­sides mak­ing this the fi­nale of the tour, we wanted to find a way to make it so that real ac­tors would ap­pear in front of you.”

But as Gib­son ex­plains, film­ing a live- ac­tion movie, even one loaded with spe­cial ef­fects, isn’t the same as the shoot for a ride as tech­no­log­i­cally com­plex as Su­per­charged.

“I asked a mil­lion ques­tions,” Gib­son says. “What are we do­ing? What does it mean when we move our arms like this? What sig­nals does it send to your com­puter? I’ve never done any­thing like it. I had a lot of fun, and it was good to do it with my broth­ers and my sis­ter, Michelle.”

Su­per­charged is a hy­draulic mo­tion- based ride that fuses spe­cial ef­fects with a state- of- the- art 3- D au­dio sys­tem and 3- D high- def­i­ni­tion im­agery pro­jected onto the world’s long­est 360- de­gree screen. Span­ning nearly 400 feet, it en­cir­cles Stu­dio Tour guests within a 65,000square- foot struc­ture on the back­lot. The sys­tem in­cludes air, wa­ter and wind to hype up the re­al­ism, though when trav­el­ing through the streets of L. A. at per­ceived speeds in ex­cess of 120 miles per hour, there might not be a need add any­thing.

“A clear piece of My­lar al­lows us to pro­ject im­ages, al­most like a holo­gram, onto the set. We have a rear pro­jec­tor screen with some pro­jec­tors above that will pro­ject the char­ac­ters on the [ My­lar]. We line it up just right so that it looks like the char­ac­ters are there on this real truck that comes up on the set,” says Rus­sell.

“When the guests go in, their eyes tell them that this is real. I’m see­ing Dom and Ro­man and all of the cast walk­ing around in a real en­vi­ron­ment.”

The ride it­self be­gins in a truck re­pair shop, com­plete with Ro­man Pearce’s ( Gib­son) souped- up tow truck and grap­pling hook. This be­comes an es­sen­tial part of the ride as the story pro­gresses and the ac­tion picks up seem­ingly out­side of the shop. The story also plays out through­out the Stu­dio Tour, even when you’re not in the Su­per­charged sec­tion.

Su­per­charged is just the latest of the theme park’s re­cent ride and at­trac­tion up­grades that have been go­ing on the last few years.

A 2008 fire in Uni­ver­sal’s fa­mous back­lot de­stroyed some of ven­er­a­ble stu­dio’s long- stand­ing struc­tures, in­clud­ing the King Kong at­trac­tion, which was once the Stu­dio Tour’s cen­ter­piece. It was re­placed in 2010 with the King Kong 360 3- D driv­ethrough movie ex­pe­ri­ence, a ride that was cre­ated by di­rec­tor Peter Jack­son and proved to be a pop­u­lar ad­di­tion.

In some­thing of a fiveyear plan, the park opened the Trans­form­ers: The Ride — 3D in 2012 and the De­spi­ca­ble Me: Min­ion May­hem mo­tion sim­u­la­tor in 2014, and last April, the park ex­panded on 2008’ s The Simp­sons Ride with a whole Simp­son­s­themed land of Spring­field.

Af­ter Fast & Fu­ri­ous — Su­per­charged de­buts, the park will con­tinue its re­vamp with the open­ing of the Wizard­ing World of Harry Pot­ter

next spring.

Uni­ver­sal’s re­build­ing has so far been a suc­cess. The theme park’s at­ten­dance rose from 4.31 mil­lion in 2009 to 6.15 mil­lion in 2013. With Fast & Fu­ri­ous — Su­per­charged, park plan­ners hope to con­tinue that trend by of­fer­ing visi­tors the chance to ride with Dom and his crew.

“There’s just some­thing about be­ing im­mersed in their world and feel­ing what they feel with the speed and the im­pact of what’s go­ing on around them,” Rus­sell says. “You just can’t get that any­where else.”

For Gib­son and his fel­low “Fast & Fu­ri­ous” movie cast mem­bers, the chance to be a part of the at­trac­tion was not just another gig but some­thing spe­cial apart from the movie that ex­tends the fran­chise.

“I know so many peo­ple are caught up in the box- of­fice re­ceipts, and right­fully so — it puts a weird kind of pres­sure on you to be in a movie where it seems like ev­ery man, woman and child has seen it. It’s a lit­tle scary,” Gib­son says.

“But here, we’re be­ing im­mor­tal­ized, you know? I was hit­ting the gym real hard. This is a dif­fer­ent kind of pres­sure. I got to make sure I’m not look­ing chunky.”

Be­yond his place in pos­ter­ity, Gib­son, born and raised in Watts, also has to look good for some­one closer to home, as he dis­cov­ered when he over­heard daugh­ter Shayla talk­ing with Vin Diesel’s kids Ha­nia and Vin­cent af­ter the ac­tors fin­ished the Su­per­charged shoot.

“Vin and I were lis­ten­ing to [ Ha­nia] and his son, Vin­cent, hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with Shayla be­cause [ Ha­nia] had been at school brag­ging about [ the ride] with her friends and Shayla had been brag­ging about it with her friends,” Gib­son says. “Shayla’s birth­day is com­ing up, so I’ll prob­a­bly have to bring about 40 kids.” But Gib­son doesn’t mind. “This is why we work as hard as we do,” Gib­son says, “to give our kids unique brag­ging rights.”

Dar­ren Michaels SMPSP

MICHELLE RO­DRIGUEZ hangs on in a spe­cial car while f ilm­ing her part for the Fast & Fu­ri­ous ride.

Dar­ren Michaels SMPSP

TYRESE GIB­SON, cen­ter, and Dwayne John­son, right, wear spe­cial gear for 3- D f ilm­ing as they check their per­for­mances on a mon­i­tor for Fast & Fu­ri­ous — Su­per­charged, the new­est at­trac­tion at Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios,

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